As Microsoft tries to put Windows 8 firmly in the rearview mirror, the tech giant has slowly been revealing the new features in Windows 10.
With the release date creeping closer, questions are swirling around about what could be the last major Windows release. How will Windows 10 distance itself from Windows 8? What does Windows 10 mean for IT management? Will it be secure? What are the exciting new features? And, most importantly, is the new OS ready for the enterprise?
We may not have all the answers yet but we have compiled some highlights of what we know so far, including information on how Windows 10 interacts with 2-in-1 devices, applications and updates. Oh, and don't forget the holograms.
Does Window 10 rectify the Start menu debacle of Windows 8?
Windows 8 caused a great deal of stress for a lot of users, but there was perhaps no more infuriating feature for users than the Start menu. Geared more towards touch screen use, the Windows 8 Start menu was simply not a fit for enterprise use. But users can breathe a sigh of relief -- the Windows 10 Start menu is a modified version of the Windows 8 Start menu, but it's much closer in form and function to Windows 7.
The traditional Start menu and the modern user interface (UI) Start menu coexist in harmony. While the full screen, touch-oriented Start menu remains on touch-based devices, it is gone on the desktop. Instead, Windows 10 boots directly to the desktop on PCs. Users will find a column of applications on the left, similar to Windows 7 and earlier, which serves as the centerpiece for launching apps and accomplishing tasks. On the right is a set of tiles, like in Windows 8.
Most importantly, Windows 10's layout is intuitive. Anyone familiar with a Windows OS will have no problem getting around. The search function is better at finding the applications a user needs. The new All Apps feature lists every app on the device in alphabetical order. Although All Apps requires a lot of scrolling and clicking, the tool brings desktop apps and modern UI apps into one easy-to-navigate location.
How does Windows 10 interact with 2-in-1 devices?
A 2-in-1 device should be just that, two devices in one. That's exactly what Windows 10 Continuum delivers. Continuum detects whether a keyboard is present, and if it is, the OS will default to a traditional desktop interface. If a keyboard is not attached, then the device will function in a touch-based mode. The transition is seamless and is designed to work across all devices to deliver two distinct experiences on a single device.
Continuum will monitor the device at all times and change the OS orientation as soon as a keyboard is attached or detached. The user can manually select the mode he wants the device to be in. So if he wants to use a touch screen even with a keyboard plugged in, he can.
How do applications work across different devices?
Any application built on Windows 10's universal apps development platform can work on any Microsoft device from laptops and smartphones to the Xbox and new 84-inch Surface Hub. The ubiquitous code base provides a universal experience. If a user is accessing an app on his smartphone he can move over to his laptop and the same settings and data will seamlessly carry over. In addition, users can access Microsoft apps such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel on a touch screen or with a mouse and keyboard depending on their preference.
The only exception is that traditional Windows desktop apps and legacy apps don't work on devices smaller than eight inches, which can only run Metro apps.
What are the security features in Windows 10?
Containerization keeps corporate and personal data separate in Windows 10. As a result, IT can take more control over the corporate apps and data even if the device is owned by an employee. This leaves everything more regulated and protected.
Now that Windows Phone OS is a thing of the past all Microsoft devices will be running Windows 10, leaving fewer entry points for attackers. Built-in multifactor authentication will also keep cybercriminals away.
Windows 10 takes data loss prevention in BYOD environments head-on by letting IT choose what apps have access to corporate data and limit VPN access based on ports and IP addresses. In addition, IT can require a security profile to copy or access particular data and even blacklist certain apps.
Device Guard is another new feature designed to combat malware and advanced persistent threats by blocking untrusted apps that have not been signed by specific software vendors, the Windows Store or IT. The IT department does have the power to sign apps built in-house.
Windows Hello uses biometric authentication to identify the facial features, irises or fingerprints of a user instead of a password or connection to a network server. Unfortunately, tans, facial hair or eyewear can block the recognition feature. It also requires hardware that can read a fingerprint.
What will enterprise adoption be like? How about upgrades and updates?
The apps, compatibility and back-end management in Windows 10 are exactly the same as Windows 7, which takes the pressure off to adopt Windows 10, even if a Windows 10 device joins the enterprise. Admins can manage it the same way they would manage a Windows 7 device. Because it's not all or nothing, many industry watchers expect Windows 10 adoption to be gradual. Companies are also unlikely to retrofit devices for Windows 10. Instead, they will just wait and add Windows 10 as they bring in new devices.
To encourage organizations to speed adoption, Microsoft will offer free upgrades to companies using Windows 7 or 8.1 for the first year after Windows 10's release.
Updates will follow a similar short and gradual path. Versions are a thing of the past. In their place Microsoft will automatically push free updates to Windows 10 devices for as long as the device is supported. If IT needs to lock down any business-critical environments it can decline any updates it doesn't want, except critical security updates from Windows Server Update Services.
Current Branch lets IT validate updates by delivering them only after they have been tested for compatibility on the consumer market.
What are the other new features in Windows 10?
Windows 10 boasts improved SnapView and a multiple desktop view. There is also Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Siri. Named after a character from the Halo video game series, Cortana interacts directly with apps. Developers can use an app programing interface to expand Cortana's interaction with apps. In addition, the tool can actually modify line-of-business apps and custom programs. She even keeps track of users habits to improve how she interacts with them.
Spartan is Windows 10's new Web browser. Details are still emerging about Spartan but it will likely include voice commands and embedded sub-browsers. The sub-browsers allow users to view a page in Chrome, Firefox or any other browser at the same time. Cortana will team with Spartan to provide additional information during a Web search.
Microsoft Outlook comes equipped with the Word engine and Word ribbon. And, Outlook will let users swipe left or right on desktops and touch-based devices to quickly save or discard emails.
Last, but certainly not least, are the holograms. Using HoloLens, which is akin to Google Glass, users can immerse themselves in HD holograms and surround sound. Developers can use the Universal Apps platform to create holographic apps just like any other application. HoloLens supports spatial mapping, gesture and voice commands and runs without wires. It can process terabytes of data immediately without the assistance of markers, cameras, phones or PCs.
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